Does breaking the mold and speaking up for what is right always easy when shaping one’s identity? Society places norms that greatly impact someone’s personality, and how they identify as an individual in society. The protagonist in John Updike’s “A&P” is a young man working in a supermarket, who judges all the customers and see’s all the conformity that the store encompasses all while searching to be outside the conformist’s that exist there. John Updike uses Sammy to show through Symbolism the journey to self-identity. This coming of age story stands as a message of empowerment to all future generations.
Updike uses the older generation in A&P to symbolize what Sammy does not identify with. It represents for him the disconnection between age and maturity for him. “By the time I got her feathers smoothed and her goodies into a bag-she gives me a little snort in passing, if she’d been born at the right time they would have burned her over in Salem” (Updike 148). The use of Symbolism of an older woman as a bird with ruffled feathers represents for Sammy the lack of understanding that his generation and older generation have in understanding of one another. Sammy being a young man cannot relate to those older then him. According to one critic, “It is only the young, who have not been indoctrinated, who still have the freedom—and perhaps the courage—to make choices” (Peltier). Sammy has not yet found his identity at this point in the story. Peltier implies that because of Sammy’s age that his choices that he ultimately makes throughout the story are seen as courageous. The encounter with the woman is just the first glimpse into what little commonalities that Sammy has with older people as well as the people in th...
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...hort Story Criticism 319). Sammy throughout the story up to this point had not found his own identity, he struggled with that search everyday, but he finally has found it. Although his journey is unknown Updike gives readers Sammy to show a great journey to self-identity.
Sammy’s decision in the end to break away from the conformity that is in the A&P to establish himself is a raw truthful decision. He has chosen to follow his heart which Updike shows is what every person should do. This story is great for readers of all ages, because Sammy could be any person in modern contemporary society who is struggling to find themselves in a world dominated by conformity, rules, and standards of norms. Updike’s story is a powerful message to seek individualism. Although sometimes the road to self-identity is not known the journey getting there is worth all the while.
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